Forever posessed by the eighties

I was born in 1975, so I can’t really claim to be a “child of the 80’s” like my brother, but that decade will always have an insuperable hold upon my soul.

I know this because I listen to a very modern radio station, but when they incongruously play Huey Lewis and The News’ – The Power of Love, I am unaccountably electrified (It’s not a genre I’m usually into) and beset by vivid mental images of Michael J Fox on a skateboard, stealing momentum from passing cars and wearing magnificent dark sunglasses…

I have been justly mocked for my strong childhood feelings about that movie, that music, and that decade, and I find myself at a loss now to cogently defend them, but they remain.

There was some damn fine stuff in the eighties, and I think in another decade we will look back and appreciate the eighties in the same slightly surreal way that the sensibilities of Pulp Fiction’s Jack Rabbit Slims Twist Contest scene idly worships the fifties.

<yellow> Ohhh Yeeeah </yellow>

Thinking like a villain

I think like a continuity checker, but E thinks like a villain!

While watching Robin Hood, Season 2, Episode 9: Lardner’s Ring: (Warning, spoilers below!)




Me: So how do they know which tree to go to?
(Two scenes later, the group in question are very dramatically stumbling about sherwood forest looking for the aforementioned tree).

(Guy of Gisborne threatens to chop off a woman’s finger if villagers don’t come forward with information. Robin’s gang distract Guy, then turn and run, leading him away.)
E: I’d just turn around and chop her finger off.

(Robin Hood and maid Marian are stuck up a tree with a much sought-after homing pigeon, surrounded)
E: I’d just burn down the tree. It would be quicker.

Me: But wouldn’t that kill the pigeon?

E: They (the bad guys) don’t need the pigeon alive!
(Robin and Marian use delaying tactics, counting on their sturdy tree to be slow to fell, but are caught by surprise when Guy douses the base of the tree in pitch, in preparation for burning them out).

(Later, the pigeon seems to be escaping with its vital message. Guy’s archers are unable to hit it. The sheriff rides up)
E: I bet he’s got a falcon.
(The pigeon soars, triumphant music sounds, then the sheriff’s henchman pulls the hood off a falcon, and the sheriff says ‘fetch!’. The Falcon does so.)

Smooth RiderOf course, neither of us are quite as villainous as Robert Llewellyn. The next show we watched was an episode of Scrapheap Challenge, in which teams must devise vehicles for carrying a full, open topped barrel of yellow goo around a 4WD course without spilling any. The catch? Each team must complete three rounds, and will be scored based on the total amount left in their vehicle’s barrel at the end. In the final round, the teams drive each other’s vehicles.


Geocaching for Nokia Symbian phones!

This post has been a long long looooong (longcat) time in the making.

I tried a vast multitude of Symbian GPS tools. I found a plethora of mapping tools which don’t quite do the job. I found tools which do the caching part, but not the GPS part. I spent numerous futile dollars on tools which are actually long dead and utterly unsupported ‘ghost-town-projects’. I even began writing my own J2ME tool, with frequent pauses to despair at the grotesque complexities involved.

Compass Rose

Finally though, I came back to a tool I had seen before, and ogled from afar: It was only available for phones on US networks Sprint, SouthernLINC, Nextel and Boost Mobile, at the time. Now though, it is free for Series 60 – 3rd-edition Nokia phones, such as mine!

And lo, it is everything I could hope for: you put your details in, link it to your account, and say ‘show me the nearest ten geocaches’, and it does. 🙂

The only tiny hitch I would war of (so far) is for those who, like me, have a compatible phone with no GPS built in: the ‘download directly to phone’ mechanism won’t work for you; it will spuriously say ‘unsupported device’ or some such. You will need to download the app to your PC and install it to the phone from there.

A Dutiful Juror, I

Last week, for the first time ever, I had jury duty. I was part of a group of twelve random strangers who, over three days, made a decision which largely determined the length of a young man’s jail term, changing it from a matter of six to twelve years to two to three.

It was all a bit confronting, a detailed glimpse of a real life story which was entirely understandable, evoking plenty of empathy and more than a few quiet tears on my part. All viewed through two surreal lenses: the thoughts and feelings and daily trivia of eleven vague, bored, angry, sad, vindictive, uncomfortable, strangers, and the cold, impersonal, disinterested banality of the court staff, the barristers, and the judge himself.

I suppose I was fortunate to get such a brief, harmless case: Nobody was harmed or even particularly traumatised in the commission of the crime we were trying, and the whole case took three days. The jury drafted immediately before mine was for a supreme-court rape case expected to run for fifteen days!

Australia being a country with (mercifully) no compulsory military service,  the idea of a compulsory period of service to the very wheels of government is unfamiliar and a bit strange, but I found it to be a real education: you’re forced to face a real crisis in one or more real lives, and make a decision of vast importance and significance. As a mere consulting sysadmin, many steps removed from important decision-making or the personal effects thereof, this was refreshing, and more than a little terrifying.

Talking about it with E, she remarked that her profession makes her more-or-less exempt from jury duty. Somehow that makes sense to me: If anyone faces real people in crisis and makes terribly important decisions on a daily basis, she does. However, for those who don’t share her chosen career, I think I can recommend jury duty: It’s a jolt to the system, a harsh clarity of perspective which really throws ones own life into proportion. It’s coming face-to-face with the rule of law we all take for granted every moment of our lives, shaking it by the hand, and walking away forever changed, and perhaps a little wiser.

I would not call it fun though.